Health Services Research & Development

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Chermack ST, Bonar EE, Goldstick JE, Winters J, Blow FC, Friday S, Ilgen MA, Rauch SAM, Perron BE, Ngo QM, Walton MA. A randomized controlled trial for aggression and substance use involvement among Veterans: Impact of combining Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Treatment and telephone-based Continuing Care. Journal of substance abuse treatment. 2019 Mar 1; 98:78-88.
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Abstract: Physical aggression (towards partners or non-partners) is common among patients in treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs), including among Veteran samples; however, few treatment programs provide adjunct intervention approaches targeting reduction or prevention of aggression. The primary objectives of this comparative efficacy study were to examine the impact of adjunct aggression interventions delivered during treatment on aggression and substance use outcomes, including: a) an acute treatment phase 6-session integrated Motivational Interviewing-Cognitive Behavioral Treatment intervention (MI-CBT) for aggression and substance use prevention, b) MI-CBT plus a 12-week telephone-based Continuing Care (MI-CBT?+?CC) intervention, and c) an acute phase single session control condition [including some discussion of violence prevention and local violence prevention resources (Enhanced Treatment as Usual (E-TAU))]. Participants (N?=?180; 165 males and 15 females) were Veterans with SUD problems and past-year severe aggression who were randomized to one of three conditions: MI-CBT, MI-CBT?+?CC, or E-TAU. Primary 12-month outcomes included physical aggression and injury to partners, non-partners, and total aggression (collapsing across partner and non-partner relationships). Substance use outcomes included heavy drinking, marijuana use, cocaine use, and overall illicit substance use. Due to low representation in the sample (n?=?4 women in each group at follow-up), women were excluded from primary analyses. According to unadjusted analyses of male participants, all groups showed similar significant declines in aggression over time, with the MI-CBT and MI-CBT?+?CC groups showing significant reductions in more substance use outcomes (heavy drinking, cocaine use, overall illicit drug use) than the E-TAU group. The only significant group x time interaction was for partner physical aggression by men (those in the MI-CBT?+?CC group showed a significantly greater decrease from baseline to follow-up). Also, neither the MI-CBT nor MI-CBT?+?CC groups reported any injuring of partners during the follow-up. For heavy drinking, cocaine, marijuana and overall illicit drug use, there were significant reductions over time, but no group by time interaction effects. The findings illustrate significant reductions in aggression and substance use over time for those involved in VA SUD treatment, and a potential modest benefit of additional integrated treatment approaches (MI-CBT, MI-CBT?+?CC) on reducing aggression. Future studies should examine dissemination efforts in the VA, cost-effectiveness, and moderators of outcome.